Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Legislation...Is Good?!

Who would have guessed that Joe Lieberman would have done something good? I've kind of always thought of him as jack-ass because of his stance on the Iraq war, but he might be redeeming himself a little with the latest bit of legislation that has been submitted to the senate called the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. (Thanks Seth for pointing me to this.)

It is surprising that the President hasn't openly stated that he will veto this also, though maybe it's because conservative-independent Lieberman and republican Warner are the main sponsors of the bill. Probably. For whatever reason, if it passes it will be a very good step forward for the future of our little blue gem.

Before addressing what this bill proposes I thought I would take a few paragraphs to go over why it is important that such a bill be introduced now. The issue of global warming still continues to be prevalent in mainstream media mostly because it is still hotly debated as to whether or not it is really even happening--and as we know the media loves controversy (if not the truth). Well, as it turns out there is basically no doubt what-so-ever that global warming, and hence climate change, is occurring and it is caused by greenhouse gases that have been released by humans. The controversy arises from conservative media outlets (FOX, Wall Street Journal, etc.) that take hold of any news story they can find that puts any doubt as to the final outcome of global warming and spin that story to acquire a new meaning: that it may not even be happening! For instance, Media Matters calls out FOX News. Of course more liberal media outlets can tend to exagerate the problem as well, but in actuality the more information that pours in regarding greenhouse gas emissions and their effects on global warming the more extreme the models get. Quoted from Joe Lieberman (a supporter of big-oil subsidies and who received oil lobbyists' money and therefore making this quote that much more realistic):
"With all the irrefutable evidence we now have corroborating that climate change is real, dangerous, and proceeding faster than many scientists predicted, this is the year for Congress to move this critical legislation. If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren. Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation."
I would also add that because of CO2 levels currently in our air we are already seeing the acidification of the oceans causing more and more dead-zones to form because of oxygen deprived plumes of ocean stretching hundreds of miles in which most life can not survive. These dead zones are also caused by other types of pollution as well such as sewage and fertilizer run-off, all of which should be looked at as well. The acidification of the oceans also causes coral bleaching, and numerous other negative effects that most people do not think of when talking about global warming.

There is no controversy amongst atmospheric and meteorological scientists across the globe that global warming is indeed a very big problem. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a group created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization to asses the scientific basis of global warming, the effects it may have on the world, and the policies that governments can implement to mitigate the negative effects. Each of those areas of assessment was assigned a work group, i.e. work Group I, II, and III, respectively. The latest results have come back recently from the final Work Group III and and even though the summary of results have been considered to be very conservative by the actual scientists the conducted the research, it is still scary what can happen in the next century or two as concluded by the study that surveyed something on the order of 19,000 different climate research projects funded by the government in nearly every industrialized country on earth.

So what does the Lieberman and Warner act entail? Here is a quick run down (summarized mostly from here):
-Instant capping of CO2 emissions.
-Put a cap on CO2 emissions at the 2005 level by 2012.
-Further reductions of 1.8% per year after 2012 resulting in 15% reduction of 2005 levels by 2020.
-Continued reduction in CO2 emissions until 2050 resulting in 70% reduction of CO2 emissions compared with 2005 levels.
-Up to 80% reduction of major sources of CO2 emission.
-Implements trading of CO2 credits.
-$500 billion investment for low- and zero-carbon emitting fuels.
-$350 billion in assistance for low- and middle-income families for heating, transporation, etc. until 2030.

All of these plans are very appropriate steps in reducing greenhouse gas levels, stimulating the economy of alternative and low-carbon-emitting fuels, and helping those that have the potential to be most effected by the rise in costs of conventional fuels. Congrats to Lieberman and Warner for doing a good job, now let's just see the rest of the senate pass this!


Seth said...

I think this is pretty right on.
It is pretty much making climate policy history because it has a decent chance of actually passing. The main threat, as I see it, is not from the White House, but from the Senate. It is possible that if the Senate decides to vote on this legislation before the 2008 election (which I believe it will) the Bush Administration will threaten a veto. But the Senate needs to get a solid majority of 60 votes to prevent a filibuster (because if not, it will be filibustered). When the Republican controlled Senate voted for a similar bill (Lieberman-McCain Climate stewardship Act of 2003), it failed 43-55. The current legislation only made it out of their 19 member committee by a vote of 11-8 (John Warner being the ONLY Republican to vote for it).
It’s difficult, at this point, to say how this will play out. If the Republicans are smart, they’ll allow this to pass. If the Republicans are smart, they will minimize their losses in the 2008 election. And yes, the Republicans are smart (just often wrong – as the Democrats are idiots, but often right). Right now the democrats are gaining support due to the increasingly unpopular War in Iraq. More importantly the economy is, yet again, tanking; due mostly to the ridiculous economic policy of the Bush administration. The Lieberman-Warner bill is at least one issue that enough Republicans can get behind and tell voters they support. And why can they get behind it now? Energy prices. Even for those who do not believe in Global Warming (and 77% of Republican Senators don’t!), many can get behind investing in new, renewable energy supplies (71% of Republican Senators believe we should invest in new energy sources).
Could we be doing more? Yes. Will we? No, not this year. But there is some hope on the horizon. All three presidential candidates take climate change seriously.

Ian said...

Any one know how this gets to the floor for a vote? Does a committee need to review and recommend it prior to a vote in the senate? Barbara Boxer, who had previously drafted a very nice bill with Bernie sanders, is prepared to push this forward.

On another note, check out this link for a comparison of the candidates on green issues: http://www.grist.org/candidate_chart_08.html

Andrew said...

Seth: One thing that worries me about McCain is his obvious downplaying of the importance of science. He was talking about a multi-million dollar project to understand how wild bear populations in California and Oregon are being effected by changes in habitat, climate, etc as a waste of time and money. Almost immediately the whole scientific community rose up to undermine his words and back up the research as being extremely valuable and only pennies in comparison to the defense department spending he would authorize to build more nuclear weapons. Is it important to make more nukes? I don't think so but hey what do I know about warfare.

So with his record of talking negatively about many areas of science I am worried he will take the evidence that is out there for global warming and turn a blind eye. But I really haven't been paying much attention to his campaign so I'm probably way off on this.

Ian: According to the wiki link about I provided "no timetable has been announced as to when the bill might reach the full Senate for debate." However, the Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions and the Environment and Public Works Committee in the senate have both approved the bill. Hopefully it will come to a full vote soon.

Andrew said...

Oops, I misspoke. McCain would actually reduce the nuclear arsenal according to one website I read. So scratch that. Instead he wants to build a missile defense system. Not a bad idea but how do we do that with out science I ask you, how?